“Never Beg Someone to Stay in your Life…”

peopledontleaveHave you ever noticed that social media brings out modern day philosophers and provides that little nudge to think differently or better?

My brother-in-law is going through some personal challenges right now, but I see him picking himself up over and over, reminded and reminding about strength and perseverance through social media.  You used to have to buy an inspirational book; now you can be inspired through some pretty powerful philosophies (and friends) that are shared on Facebook.

He posted this graphic this morning, and I thought to myself – this is really the crux of “engagement,” isn’t it?

The quote actually clarifies my struggles with organizational “engagement programs.”  So often, we create “incentives” to retain top talent, but do we really know if they truly want to be here?  The conundrum is that if they truly want to be here, we probably don’t need engagement programs.

So why do people truly want to be “here?”  In my mind, it isn’t because you allow them to collect points that they can redeem for a material object, or because they are nominated by their peers for an organizational award.  True, those are very nice recognitions, and we all like to be recognized.

But I think they stay because they love what they do, feel supported by their leader and by the organization all the time, not just with “programs,” and they believe that they are making a valuable contribution to something bigger.  I have watched employees while serving in Human Resources for over 30 years, and I have watched leadership behaviors engage their employees, or not.    Time after time, those leaders who paint a compelling vision, who challenge employees to be better than they ever imagined, and who apply those same standards to everyone on the team, seem to have people who “truly want to be there.”

Can’t “engagement programs” do that?  Here’s the rub.  I don’t believe there is an organizational engagement program that can overcome poor leadership at the department level.  This isn’t new news; Gallup has been saying this forever.

So here are some questions to ponder before putting in an organizational engagement program (aka, begging employees to stay)

Do your leaders believe that their role is to create a compelling vision, and challenge their employees to achieve more than they thought that they could?  If not, you may be pouring money down the drain if you think a retention program will keep talent if the leader is not equipped to do so.

Do your leaders know how to do this?  Is it their inclination to challenge their team, or are they more comfortable just doing it themselves?  If they aren’t challenging their team, both top and bottom performers, and demonstrating that they know the difference, no organizational program will overcome this deficit.

Does the organization have the courage to select, promote and hold accountable those leaders who can create an environment where employees truly want to stay?  This takes a great deal of organizational courage, because it means a disciplined approach to engaging and developing great leaders, and not bowing to pressure to put someone into a leadership position who does not fit the model.  It sounds simple, but it really does take courage and understanding at the very top of the organization.

How do we know if employees truly want to stay?  Surveys are great; the data gives you a conceptual sense, and a place to start with dialogue.  However, leaders and especially Human Resources professionals need to be out there talking to employees, and finding out the level of commitment and engagement.  And again, it takes organizational courage to intervene where there is an opportunity to exhibit more effective leadership.

What struck me about the philosophy in the Facebook graphic is the word “begging.”  It doesn’t make sense for organizations to beg employees to stay with the organization if they are truly not happy or fulfilled.  But before letting that disgruntled employee go, wouldn’t it be good to diagnose the “why?”

Note from Wikipedia: Trent Shelton, the author of the quote, is an American football wide receiver who is currently the founder and president of a Christian-based non-profit organization, RehabTime.

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